Naval Security Exercises

In their first publicised exercise, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and the United States have just completed five days of maritime security exercises in the Red Sea.

Those exercises included training onboard the USS Portland, an amphibious transport dock ship, and were focused on tactics to visit, board, search and seize vessels that threaten international maritime safety.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, said:

“Maritime collaboration helps safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade,
which are essential to regional security and stability.”

US Navy tweet about the exercisesUS Navy Tweet about the exercises.

The joint exercises are a response to Iran’s increasing aggression in the region, including several attacks on Israeli owned or operated cargo ships, transport of weaponry to Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen, and two separate occasions on which the US Navy found it necessary to fire warning shots during encounters with Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf.

There is clearly a growing level of trust between the allies involved in these exercises, as well as their shared concerns over Iran’s regional influence and pursual of nuclear development.

Nor was the collaboration limited to naval forces, as Israeli fighter aircraft escorted two American heavy bombers and a refuelling plane over Israeli airspace on their way to the Gulf.

That was the second time in two weeks there had been such a flight, which was hailed as:

“a significant step in maintaining the security of the skies of the State of Israel and the Middle East.”

The involvement of the UAE and Bahrain is seen to be a direct result of the Abraham Accords, which are now just over one year old.

From Israel’s perspective, there is a significant need to respond to Iran’s growing influence around the Middle East, and they see partnerships with these allies as the best way to that.

One naval officer said it will:

“extend our ability to detect [threats], to extend our sailing range, to prevent naval terror
and also to retaliate, when we must, when it’s needed,
against what the Iranians are doing.”